In today’s society, it’s easy to eat too much because food is everywhere, all the time. Combined with sedentary lifestyles, overeating has caused an obesity epidemic in America, which has also led to other health problems, like diabetes, heart disease and more.
Whether it’s occasional or a daily habit, overeating is unhealthy. Although changing this practice can be challenging, here are some top recommendations on how to stop overeating.
How to Stop Overeating
- Slow down. Thanks to packed schedules, many of us rush through meals and barely savor our food. It takes up to 20 minutes for the brain to register a feeling of fullness, so if you’re gulping down dinner, you won’t realize when you are satiated. Chew your food fully, put down your fork between bites, talk to others at the table and drink water to slow your pace. Try setting a timer for 20 minutes and deliberately take your time eating to pay attention to feelings of fullness.
- Minimize distractions. This can be difficult because we are so busy, but make an effort to eat at a table, instead of the car, your desk, on the run, or while watching TV, working on the computer or engaging with your phone. Focus on your how your food tastes and smells, and tune into the experience. If you can’t do this at every meal, try to incorporate it at least once per day.
- Portion servings. You know what happens when you munch on chips or cookies straight from the package? By the time you realize it, you’ve consumed way too many. Make an effort to put servings into a bowl or on a plate, or even in small plastic bags for automatic portion control. At restaurants, where serving sizes often are too large, ask for a takeout container and immediately package one-half of your meal to eat later. Or opt to split an entrée with your dining companion.
- Reduce temptation. If candy is a trigger for you, then don’t keep it at home, and don’t walk past the candy bowl at work. If you love to eat ice cream when watching TV at night, try to replace it with frozen yogurt or fruit. Better yet, do stretching while watching TV. Avoid the bakery at the grocery store if necessary, and skip happy hour in favor of working out with your colleagues.
- Eat regular meals. Sometimes, in an effort to decrease caloric intake, we skip meals throughout the day. (Coffee is NOT breakfast!) What frequently happens, however, is that we end up so ravenous that we justify higher calorie food choices and overeat later. Studies have shown that skipping meals can lead to greater daily caloric intake. Instead, spread your meals and snacks throughout the day to maintain a higher metabolism and more energy.
- Plan ahead. When we get hungry and don’t have food with us, we typically buy meals or snacks from vending machines, fast-food restaurants, concession stands and more, which doesn’t always lead to the healthiest choices. It’s cheaper and usually healthier if you keep nutritious snacks on hand or pack your lunch when possible. Planning starts with smart grocery store lists that include items that you can take or make and carry with you. This way, you not only control the ingredients, but also the portion sizes.
- Manage stress. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which increases appetite, often for high-fat or sugary foods. Decrease your stress through exercise, meditation, breathing techniques, listening to music and more. And pay attention when you reach for food – are you really physically hungry or is something else triggering overeating?